We had to go grocery shopping Tuesday night. After a weekend away, the cupboard was nearly bare. Not as bad as if Jack Sprat and his wife had been visiting, but close.
We made sure we ate dinner before we went to the market. I will not go to the market on an empty stomach if there’s any way to avoid it. Going to the market hungry is the equivalent of asking the wolf to guard the hen house. So we ate first – ham steak and veggies.
It started almost as soon as I walked in to the market. The voices. No, not the ones coming from the intercom. The ones coming from the food. Don’t tell me you never hear them. They whisper your name at first. Then they call louder. Sometimes they even shout!
It wasn’t too bad in the produce section. There’s only so much temptation a piece of fruit can present. I rounded the deli in pretty good shape, my veggies and feta cheese nestled safely in the cart. My husband was at the fish counter, getting a piece of salmon. No trouble in health & beauty aids. I stopped to find a card for a friend who had gastric by-pass surgery earlier in the day. What a lot of dreary cards I had to wade through to find one that was chipper and positive! After all, this surgery is her finally making a stand and demanding a better life. She’s happy about it and all those cards seemed to bring was rain on her parade.
The next aisle is where the trouble started: cereal, breakfast items and juice. I needed cereal, so I couldn’t skip it. I knew what I wanted to get – a variety of Cheerios. But the others were calling me, ever so quietly. The pop tarts, on the other hand, were rowdy. “Hey, over here – we taste better and you know it!” Fortunately my husband had returned from the fish mission and could lend support. Well, could have lent support if he wasn’t occupied with reading labels so he could get himself some cereal. I decided to leave the aisle, figuring he’d be done soon and be back to lend support.
Big mistake! I hadn’t thought about what was in the next aisle. Canned fruit, rice cakes, chocolate (syrup and hot cocoa), coffee, crackers and cookies. Oh my God! The noise was deafening. I picked up the Nilla Wafers and crackers my son wanted. I picked up the low fat, whole wheat crackers for myself. I tried not to look at the Keebler elves. I forced myself to look at the grocery cart in front of me as I passed what I knew were Chips Ahoy, Dare Maple cookies and Mint Milanos. But even if I didn’t see them, I could hear them. Whispering their sweet little nothings – those lies about taste being more important that calories. The lie that I owed myself the pleasure they would bring.
I finally emerged from the aisle of terror and decided to check out the meat sales before trying to take on any of the other grocery aisles. Nothing can quiet things down like looking at packages of raw meat, right? Chicken breast packages were Buy One, Get One Free. Good deal. But my head was still reeling from all the noise in the cookie aisle. You know, like that sensation you get after you’ve attended a sporting event with thousands of cheering fans. You get in your car to leave, but the sound is still bouncing around in your brain.
I couldn’t leave until I finished the rest of the marketing. So I took a deep breath and plunged on. I skipped the baking aisle. Didn’t need anything there anyway, so why listen to all that chatter? The next aisle was soda and such. No loud noise there. I was beginning to think the worst of it was done. Then I turned the corner – the snack food aisle. You could hear them loud and clear – the chips and granola bars and nuts and candy. I doubt using ear plugs would have helped. I needed one item in that aisle – just one, a package of Emerald Breakfast Trail Mix (gratefully, one that has no peanuts). I left the cart at the end of the aisle and sped toward my goal. I knew where they were, so I didn’t need to look around. Good thing! The Tostitos were chanting my name in unison and the Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate was touting the antioxidant benefits of eating same. I held firm and dashed back to the cart, trail mix in hand. And took a slow, deep breath. I congratulated myself, too, for being so strong.
My husband finally caught up with me. He’d missed the torment. We finished the shopping together. I really needed support. The next few aisles were not a big temptation. Pasta and sauce, rice, canned goods, marinades and dressings, international foods. The Polish cookies did manage to get my attention. It’s probably a good thing I only know a few words in Polish and couldn’t understand most of what they said.
The cat food aisle was a breeze. Funny – the Fancy Feast chicken & tuna, mackerel, tuna & ocean whitefish, etc were very quiet. I still had the echoes of the earlier aisles reverberating in my head, so it was nice to have the relative quiet. The paper products aisle was also blissfully quiet.
Next stop – frozen foods. The noise picked up again. “Shut up, Mrs Smith – I need veggies, not pie!” “Sorry, Celeste – no pizza on my list today.” I picked up a few frozen meals for my son to go with my veggies and hustled out of the aisle. Only a couple of places left to go – but dangerous ones.
The dairy case was really calm compared to the bread aisle across from it. I got the yogurt and milk I needed while the bread called to me. We picked up a loaf of bread, but it didn’t satisfy the voices. What about rolls, bagels, sweet breads? No, no, no! I pushed ahead. I took out the market’s savings card and gave it to my husband. We left the bread behind and entered the final noisy stretch. Ice cream.
Ice cream is seductive. Instead of screaming at you, it teases you with promises of lingering pleasure as the cream coats your mouth. It has a lower, more subtle voice that lures you in. Cookies beg and chips are demanding – ice cream is more sensual in its temptation. If my husband hadn’t been there to hold me back, I may have fallen for ice creams evil charms. But we continued on to the check-out counter. I breathed another big sigh of relief. Or maybe it was a big sigh of sadness. I’m not sure.
The temperature had dropped abruptly between the time we arrived at the market and the time we walked out with our bagged purchases. The drive home takes about 20 minutes. All the way home, the echoes of the voices at the market kept swirling around in my brain. I felt lucky to have escaped their wiles. I just wished I could turn it off in my head the way you can mute the TV when an annoying commercial comes on.
Finally home, we put the groceries away. I settled down at the computer to put my focus on something other than food. By bedtime, I felt my balance returning and the noise level back to normal.
By the way, these voices are different than those you hear when you’re schizophrenic. If you hear those, you need a different kind of help and support. With the market voices, you just need a loved one reminding you that there are more important things in your life than the cookies.
Be strong, all you who hear those voices in the market. You can ignore them – it’s hard work, but it can be done. Then you’ll end up feeling like the conqueror in some adventure flick. And you might even be healthy enough to take on that role.